I can still feel the knots in my stomach when I remember back to my first presentations. I'd sweat about the damage a heckler could do by sidetracking me. I also worried that my credibility would be damaged if I gave away control. I've learned from each time standing at the podium it doesn't have to be this way.
I recently had to give a keynote speech at a university fundraising gala. I've given more talks than I could remember, but this time I was a bit nervous. I had no slide deck or notes to lean back against. It was just me baring my soul before the audience.
Through my years of teaching I've heard the word terrified connected to public speaking training a few times (many, actually) and with experience I've learned it's not about me as a teacher, but rather the subject, that triggers this response.
Silent prayer aside, there are many things that can derail your speaking awesomeness. Technology, traffic, timing, too-tight shoes and other terrible things can wreak havoc on the unprepared speaker. Luckily, most of these things can be avoided with a little planning.
Credibility is one of those invisible skills that we have quite a bit of control over. It can affect every aspect of your life including your professional life. Luckily there are many ways you can control your credibility.
A few years ago I decided to embark on a backpacking trip across Europe for two months. Towards the end of my travels, I found myself at the Sisteen Chapel in Rome, Italy. As I was standing there, enchanted by this insanely crazy masterpiece, I felt a soft whisper perk the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.
Have you noticed the difference between a presenter who has memorized their presentation word for word and one who riffs off key points? There is a big difference. In fact, it's obvious. The first sounds like the speaker is reading from a script and the delivery is stilted -- a little too slick. The latter sounds confident, relaxed and strangely more in control.
We've all heard the story that most people would rather choose death than public speaking. Death wouldn't be my choice. I'd choose the podium. Here's why. When public speaking anxiety rears its ugly head, it can be dampened down and managed easily with practice and a handful of tried-and-tested techniques.
I felt fortunate to witness this incredibly awkward moment was because it illustrated to me an important lesson both in human frailty and in human resilience. It was one of the worst possible things that could go wrong -- followed by a surprising and excellent recovery which I saw as tremendously reassuring.
In August 2015, Mohammed Quatani was crowned the winner of the 2015 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking with his speech, The Power of Words. Mohammed rose above 30,000 contestants to take this prestigious title in the finals of the world's largest public speaking contest.